This past summer I had the opportunity to serve as a summer clerk for a Federal Magistrate Judge in Jacksonville, Florida. Since the beginning of law school, the possibility of clerking for a judge was something I had always been interested in doing, but was concerned I might not have the necessary grades, class rank, or connections. So I began working to prepare myself for this position during the summer of 2014 while clerking for the United States Attorney’s Office.
While at the U.S. Attorney’s Office we were encouraged to attend various types of proceedings to get a feel for the environment of federal courts. In doing so, I came across a judge for whom I was determined to work the following summer. From her reputation in the office and her demeanor on the bench, I knew learning from her would be invaluable. I remained a consistent presence in her courtroom throughout the summer, asked to meet with her before I returned to school, and left her with my resume. She later told me my persistence as well as being assertive was what landed me the position.
To say I learned a lot clerking for a federal judge would be an understatement. On my first day I was given a checklist of preliminary assignments I was to complete before I would be delegated any “actual” work. This checklist contained multiple reading assignments including four books about grammar and concise writing, the Federal Rules of Evidence, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and hour-long interviews with each of the U.S. Supreme Court Justices about what makes a good writer. I did not think I would have time to finish all of this before I had to return to the College of Law for the fall semester.
About two weeks and a lot of homework later, I received my first assignment. After working on it for almost a month, the Judge was kind enough to pour over it line by line asking me to explain why I chose certain words or phrasing. This took four hours. Her input has shaped the way I write even text messages since. It was intimidating to say the least, but I now feel more confident than I ever have with my writing style.
The thing that surprised me most was the Judge’s interest in my future. I was applying for jobs throughout the summer and she took time to put me through interview boot camps and helped me find the perfect power suit. She also helped me perfect the art of “thank you” notes and taught me the necessity of Crane paper. Her help and guidance throughout the application and interview process aided me in landing my job after graduation this fall.
I am so lucky to have spent the summer learning and refining not only my work but my professional identity. It has reaffirmed for me that in the real world there is more to a law student than their resume and grades, and there is more to be gained in a summer position than how to file a motion.